Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
There are many things to tell, but I think we need to start with the steadfast love of God, because that is really the whole point isn’t it? So far this adventure has already had lots of turns and curves. Yet as I come around any bend, I find God there with his presence, his peace and his abundant love. And that is so humbling and so empowering.
Thursday I was officially introduced to the staff as the new Program Administrator. Before hand I was so nervous. I knew the management team wanted me to come, but I was unclear whether the staff would welcome me or be anxious about some mzungu (what they call a foreigner) coming around. I knew I would have to share a word or two and I prayed hard about what to say. How do I set the stage properly? How do I let people know my heart? How do I really communicate and connect with people with such different experiences than mine? This had me totally stressed all week as I pondered what I should say.
Then I was reminded of a Psalm that Ginger shared a few months ago, Psalm 90. I read the end of the Psalm and knew that was exactly what I had to share.
I find that often I get caught up on some anxiety, or some area where I feel God is being too slow or giving a poor response and I dwell there. I take for granted water, food, a home, people that love me and I blindly wonder, “Where is the steadfast love of the Lord?” Just like any spoiled child. Yet when I look at these verses, they proclaim the steadfast love of God and explain that the only real response is rejoicing. That is something that my Uganda friends get so much better than I do! They are gifted celebrators! (I swear Jaja is at a wedding or party—or 3—every weekend!) There is singing and dancing and so much laughter—really no matter what the circumstances are. I hope to learn from them and I hope I can bring some of the celebration with me wherever I am in the world.
But this isn’t a blind joy. Sometimes I feel like people treat Ugandans (and most Africans) as a provincial people that just smile their way through the chaos of life, not able to truly understand the poverty around them. As if they don’t seem to know any better or are incapable of addressing the poverty around them. And that is utter foolishness. I would wager that any African you know has seen more evil and experienced more reasons to become resentful, despondent and hopeless than I (and maybe you?) will ever understand. In fact, I would actually claim that most of us in the first world are the most ignorant of the poverty in our lives and have so much to learn from my wise friends here. Embracing the steadfast love of God and living with gladness is a choice amidst much evil in this world. There is no way around this—we see it everywhere in the news, in broken relationships and in so much injustice. And it is OK, even vital, to be irate about the evil we see. It’s OK to shout! It’s OK to pray for justice! But what I have learned over the last 3 years is that evil can be combated personally through choices for joy! It can be hard to do, but no matter the weight around us, the light of Christ within us is so much more perfect. And that deserves a good hoot n’ holler!
The Psalmist continues into verse 16 expecting God’s glorious power to be played out. When we see injustice, as Christians, our first belief should be that God has a plan to bring justice into the world. Throughout the Bible he rages at mistreatment of orphans, widows and the helpless! I know this is very hard for my non-Christian friends to believe but what is sad is that many Christians seem to doubt this as well. And I’m not saying that it isn’t a complicated issue–I wish God would snap some genie fingers and fix all sin in one moment. Trust me, as I am here in Uganda and hear story after story, my heart breaks deeply but what I know is that God became a man to be crucified for all men. That does not sound like a stand-offish King that does not care about his people nor lacks the strength of conviction to get into the fight. And is it that hard to believe that for whatever reason God is delaying is probably a pretty good one? He is God after all. I would hope He is smarter than a world that has produced reality television, David Hasselhoff and the Hummer.
The Psalmist seems to truly believe in the power of God but he also does not seem to tell God how to reveal his power. He simply asks for the favor of God—as God does his big ol’ God thing—and that God would bless the work of his hands. And that is exactly my prayer for the next year—that God would bless the work of ALL of our hands at AOET. I pray that our staff is empowered in new ways to do their work in joy and success. I pray that volunteers will catch the AOET spirit and give all that they have to this work and I pray that God will show more of himself to each volunteer. I pray that people will find ways to bring vitally needed resources to this work—that they will advocate fearlessly! I pray that friends and family will consider what God is doing through AOET in Uganda and Kenya and get involved. I pray that my work would be fruitful, divinely led and always growing the gifts of others over all else. And I pray that our kids would continue to kick butt on national exams and show that in a small communities in Uganda and Kenya, God is giving hope to children and they are responding by giving all they have!
Thanks to everyone that has been a gift of God’s favor in my life over the last few months. It truly took a village to get this mzungu on her airplane and I am still blown away by more and more people that continue to step up and support this work. Stay tuned for more thoughts from the journey…